LOVE!

LOVE! THE TRUE MEANING HAS BEEN PERVERTED FOR SO LONG  BY HOLLYWOOD USING SOUND AFFECTS, PICTURES and PLATITUDES disguised as profound until we’ve essentially resorted to making it entirely physical.  A good example is the 1970 movie with Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, LOVE STORY.  A memorable line is, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  [O how sweet!]  Not too many people can define LOVE. Our culture, philosophy, education and experiences all influence the way we think of LOVE.  

I guess Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald defined and sang LOVE this way:

“I’ve got the world on a string

I’m sitting on a rainbow

Got that string around my finger

What a world, what a life; I’m in love.”  (Ted Koehler)
In the 1960’s our culture redefined LOVE to mean a whole list of decadent behaviors.  Our American “enlightenment” has proven The Scriptural statement:  “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 (kjv))  Using the ’60s definitions & behaviors, one could do anything, act any way, and as long as its called love, all is OK!  I think the 60s is when the innocuous statement got started, [gotta sing it] “luv yeew.”  No you don’t and I don’t!  But as long as we kind of sing it, it legitimizes it. True LOVE goes beyond and above.  LOVE is willing to go to the mat, make any sacrifice, lift any load, go the second mile, and do all this without complaining. 

 Do I have the ability to define LOVE apart from the Word of God?  No!  But the Apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,  penned one of the most memorable, declamatory and eloquent chapters in the Bible writing to the Corinthians.  

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t LOVE others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t LOVE others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t LOVE others, I would have gained nothing. LOVE is patient and kind. LOVE is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. LOVE never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But LOVE will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and LOVE —and the greatest of these is LOVE.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (nlt)

“Because of His great LOVE for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—”

Ephesians 2:4-8 (niv)

“May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the LOVE of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (nlt)

“Greater LOVE hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13 (kjv) 

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“Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

“Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure—

The saints’ and angels’ song.”

(Frederick M. Lehman)

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THE ANSWER

DO YOU REMEMBER GOMER PYLE?  His famous statement was, “Surprise! Surprise!”  Permit me to surprise you.  There are some things that I just don’t know!  And neither do you.  

When I walk into my garage, get into my car, and turn the key, I don’t really know if the car will start.  When I drive down the street I am believing it will be a safe journey.  I make plans for tomorrow, but I don’t know if I’ll be around, make it through the night.  

I have so many questions about life, things that happen; why people suffer, why this and why that?  I just don’t know why my heart hurts.  Why did things happen the way they did?  Will I ever make it?  Where is God when I suffer?  You’ve been there, haven’t you!

Things happen in life that seem to be disastrous.  You may have unsolvable marriage problems.  Your business may be on the verge of bankruptcy.  You went to a formal banquet with your employer and you coughed tea through your nose.  You stumped your toe on the bed frame.  You or a family member developed a devastating health crisis.  Why, O Lord, why? 

The natural response to bad things is to say, “God, if you loved me, why did you let this happen?”

Surprise! Surprise!  We don’t need to know everything.  What we need to know is the comfort in knowing that the One Who is in charge knows exactly the answer and He has the power to work things out to our good and His glory!

How does this work?

“Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in —insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

“Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are. They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us.

“So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? ‘Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!’  Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important.”

Colossians 2:11-15, 18-23 (msg)

In my book, Write It On My Heart, some of my readers were puzzled about the chapter on Peace.  I think it was because I used the word, ESSENCE!  It is the last chapter of the book.  I quote: 

“Eureka! I’ve got the answer.  It suddenly dawned on me.  Essence! (Remember that word.) We want stuff now. No waiting in line, no diversions, no excuses, no problems, no sorrow, no worry, no hurt, no pain, no misunderstanding, no suffering, no stink, no bum-rap, and no complaints!  Sorry, Charlie! It ain’t a-gonna happen on this earth!”  There is a Greek word,  that means slave – δολος.  It is used all through the Bible in the context of surrender to the will of God through Christ.  “So make up your mind.  If you are going to follow the Master, give it up!  Surrender!  There is a peace that passes all understanding.  It goes far beyond your pain.  It goes far beyond your sorrow.  If you want that liberating release from misunderstanding, blame, and God-questioning hurt, you just gotta make up your mind to be a slave of the one who is saving you for eternity.  That’s the essence of it all!”  

Jesus, in John 16:33 says: “In the godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.  But take heart! I’ve conquered the world!”

“Coming to Jesus,

My Savior I’ve found

Wonderful peace, wonderful peace.

Storms in their fury may rage all around;

I have peace, sweet peace.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace!

Peace, peace, glorious peace!

Since my Redeemer has ransomed my soul

I have peace, sweet peace.

(Haldor Lillenas) 

SKEPTICS AND THE SUPERNATURAL

NATURAL LAWS ARE FIXED!  THEY ARE DECLARED IN ADVANCE. 

They are foreseeable, calculable and certain.  They are constant and consistent.  The only force or Person who can alter, reconstruct or overrule those immutable, permanent laws is some cosmic force way out there in the somewhere, OR … we know Him as The Supernatural, Almighty, Ontological, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omnicient Creator GOD!  He is supernatural.  He is the miracle-producing God.  He is here and everywhere.  He is out there and in here.  His power cannot be calculated and His love is beyond intellectual understanding.  When God overrules natural law we know it as … supernatural!

When you believed by faith in the saving mercy of God through Christ Jesus, when you gave your heart to God, you entered the world of the supernatural.  You were brought from death to eternal life.  There is physical death and there is spiritual death.  Only by the supernatural can physical death defy the law of nature.  Only by the supernatural can a spiritually dead human being be snatched from the jaws of eternal death.  

Most of us are natural skeptics. The Bible is filled with illustrations of skeptics. In the Gospel of John chapter 11, 

(1)  Lazarus died in the town of Bethany while Jesus was beyond the Jordan River.

(2)  Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus sent a message to Jesus notifying him that Lazarus was near death.

(3)  Jesus didn’t answer.

(4)  After two days, he told his disciples that they should go back to Bethany.

(5)  His disciples warned him that he could be killed there by the bad guys in Jerusalem.

(6)  He went anyway.

(7)  He was met by Martha, the skeptic, saying: “You’re late and its your fault.  Lazarus is dead!”

Jesus answered Martha’s skepticism assuring her that Lazarus would live again, but her anger kept her from believing.  In the two verses (vv. 25-26) following this skeptical exchange, Jesus uses the word believe three times.  Then, Mary showed up with a bunch of wailing people, probably blowing their noses and shouting their anger.  Jesus was deeply hurt;  indignant and deeply troubled.  In the only time in recorded history it says that “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the Bible.

The religious leaders stood on the side expressing their skepticism.  “He healed that blind guy, why couldn’t he keep Lazarus from dying?”

Then Jesus said, “You do something first and then I’ll do something.  Roll the stone away; the one right there in front of the cave!”  Martha, holding her nose, shrieked, “Eew, its gonna stink!”  Jesus answered, “But didn’t I tell you that you will see a wonderful miracle from God IF YOU BELIEVE?”  Holding her nose, Martha directed a bunch of guys to roll the stone away.

Almighty God in the flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, defied nature and called for Lazarus to come forth, and sure enough, out comes this guy wrapped in white stuff (I think) and Jesus ordered the people to unwrap him.  

Guess what?  It was Lazarus.  It was a supernatural act of God, a miracle.  I’ve never seen that happen, but I believe it.  And, I believe him.  When I believed, it was a miracle, supernatural! 

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“Once I was bound by sin’s galling fetters;

Chained like a slave, I struggled in vain.

But I received a glorious freedom

When Jesus broke by fetters in twain.

“Glorious freedom!

Wonderful freedom!

No more in chains of sin I repine!

Jesus, the glorious Emancipator!

Now and forever He shall be mine”

(Haldor Lillenas)

BEHIND THE SCENE

FOUR GOOD OL’ BOYS FROM THE “PORE” PART OF TOWN TEAMED UP BECAUSE THEY HAD LEPROSY.

They were kicked out because leprosy scared the living daylights out of people. It was contagious and lepers stanketh.

The Syrian army had come into Israeli territory cutting off the city and well nigh starving those city folks.  The Syrians we’re camped outside the city slowly squeezing the life out of the Israeli’s. Then the Lord showed up!

  1. The four good ol’ leper boys were sitting on a little cliff kinda looking down on the Syrian army.
  2. The first leper said, “Hey boys – we’re gonna starve if we stay here.”
  3. The second leper chimed in with, “Well, we’ll starve if we go back into the city.”
  4. The third little pig … – sorry, that’s a different story –  the third leper was so discouraged he told the others that they probably ought to just go out and surrender.
  5. The fourth guy piped up, “Look, I’d rather get killed than die a slow painful death from starvation. Why sit here til we die?”
  6. So they agreed to climb down the rocks and ask for some food. The  closer they got they could smell the porridge and lamb chops, but they didn’t see anyone so they ate til their tummies were full.

What they didn’t realize was that when God goes to work, you may not always see what He is doing behind the scenes.

“The Lord had caused the [Syrian] Aramean army to hear the sound of chariots, horses, and a large army.  The Syrians said to each other, “The king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” So they got up and ran away in the twilight, leaving their tents, horses, and donkeys. They left the camp standing and ran for their lives.”

2 Kings 7:6-7 (ncv)

My friend, stay true, stay strong even if you think you’re gonna die because God has things going on behind the scenes for your good and His glory! Hallelujah!

II Kings 7:3-8    🎼🎶🎹

“Encamped along the hills of light,

Ye Christian soldiers, rise,

And press the battle ere the night

Shall veil the glowing skies.

Against the foe in vales below

Let all our strength be hurled;

Faith is the victory, we know,

That overcomes the world.

“On every hand the foe we find

Drawn up in dread array;

Let tents of ease be left behind,

And onward to the fray.

Salvation’s helmet on each head,

With truth all girt about,

The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread,

And echo with our shout.

“Faith is the victory!

Faith is the victory!

Oh, glorious victory,

That overcomes the world.”

(John H. Yates)

THE DECEIVER

DECEPTION!

Have you ever been hornswoggled? I was – more than once!  I needed …, no, I wanted a specific item.  The sales representative knew that the key to my purchase was my “want,” my desire.  He could sense it. He had my number. He knew I was an easy mark. I was vulnerable.  I bought it – hook, line and sinker!  No, No, No! I’m not saying he was a deceiver – maybe a little.  All I’m illustrating is that I was an easy sale because of my own vulnerability.

The New Age followers prey on those who are innocent and/or those who are seeking hope of some sort or another.  The so-called “religious” science followers and the “ology” folks,  pick out those who are looking for fame or positive affirmation and “BINGO!”  They’ve learned how to prey upon those who want money, or fame, or “spiritual” guidance.  These smooth-talkers have been taught how to identify and take advantage of the vulnerable.

“For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

Romans 16:18 (niv)

“Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Matthew 24:11-13 (niv)

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

1 Peter 5:8-9 (niv)

 

UNSEEN, BUT KNOWN

MULTIPLIED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS – $$$ – have been spent by your government on listening for communication from outer space and investigating the possibility of extraterrestrial creatures. It took our illustrious scientists and academics thousands of years to discover DNA.  We still have not discovered a cure for the common cold.  Just think, electromagnetic and radio waves were not discovered until the 1870’s.  X-rays weren’t known until the late 1800’s and computer technology until the 1930’s.

Suppose, just suppose …

ALTHOUGH THERE IS AN UNSEEN-WITH-THE-NAKED-EYE SPIRITUAL BEING roaming the earth, nevertheless, the evil one is a person. We can rebuke his negativity in our lives, his filthy temptations, his accusations, his attempts to discourage us and his coming  to us as an angel of light.  Yes, an angel of light, and at the same time dragging us into low self esteem or pushing us into arrogant pride. God’s plan is for us to  “submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
James 4:7 (niv)

Right now, regardless of your circumstances, El Shaddai (The Almighty God Who Can), YAWEH (The one who says, “I AM!”), The Christ of Calvary, is as close as your heart.  “HE is here, hallelujah! HE is here AMEN!”  Do you want to “see” Him? GO.TO.HIS.WORD!  Submit yourself to Him!  “Listen” to your heart!

“No one can see God, but JESUS CHRIST IS EXACTLY LIKE HIM.  He ranks higher than everything that has been known, made or discovered.
“He was there before anything was made, and all things continue because of him.”
Colossians 1:15, 17 (ncv)

To the scientists and governments of this fallen world, I am saying, “Your huge disks on top of the mountain will not find Him.”

“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:6-9 (kjv)

“You must give your whole heart to him and hold out your hands to him for help.”
Job 11:13 (ncv)   🎼🎶🎹
“Into my heart, into my heart.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today, come in to stay.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.”

On the Wings of Angels

A FEW YEARS AGO – actually, it was over 40 years ago, but the older I get “ain’t it funny how time slips away.” So, over 40 years ago I went to Los Angeles, maybe Costa Mesa, to a wedding; a small one.  Pat and Debbie Boone were there. Pat’s secretary was getting married. No huge pipe organ.  No big choir.  No marching down the aisle. No train following the bride. Suddenly, but softly Pat and Debbie began to sing,

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“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can hear the brush of angels wings.
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”

There were no strobe lights, no acid rock music, and no blonde bombshells prancing across a stage yelling into the mike. But guess what? The Holy Spirit showed up.  Some may not understand the metaphor, but all of us there that day heard the flutter of angels wings.

The Quietness of Growth

BACK IN THE STONE AGES WHEN I WAS ABOUT SEVEN, we moved to Grandpa’s ranch way out in the country north of Cisco, Texas.  The little town we moved from near the Mexican border was noisy, but on the ranch it was real quiet. The cows were eating grass so about the only sounds they made were when they mooed. Grandpa didn’t have tractors. He had horses. They didn’t make noise either except snortin’ around. Chickens clucked and the pigs oinked, but for all practical purposes it was quiet all the time.

The wheat, corn and highgear, grass, trees and flowers didn’t make any noise as they grew. Things that grow don’t make noise, but in town there was alot of noise especially when they were tearing things down, or if Grandpa ran into something, or if the blacksmith was banging on iron.
I guess I learned that when things grow they don’t make noise, but when you tear things down or go running around here and there you make a lot of noise and bring a lot of attention to yourself.
It’s better to be in a growing mode than to tear things down. It’s better to lift people up than to tear them down!

WHY PEOPLE HURT

I HAD MY PASTOR’S HAT ON.  [I was so young.]  TEARS OF CONFUSION POURED FROM HER EYES.  She was a relatively new Christian.  Her little son had just died and her husband was angry. He was mad at her, God and everyone!  In addition, they were in debt head over heels. With pleading eyes she said, “But I thought Jesus was supposed to help us.” I was thinking, “Is she thinking God caused this? Does she think God allowed this? Did I teach her this?”  Where is God when you need Him?  Maybe I should say, “Well, we live in an evil world.”  Both she and her husband would have thrown me out of the house … and he was a big guy.

I don’t think quoting Jesus would have helped, and leave it at that.  “‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’”  (John 16:33 (niv))  And yet, he spoke truth.  Nevertheless, she had a sincere question. She wouldn’t have accepted a scriptural exegesis.  A saccharine sweet brushoff wouldn’t do from a 27 year old “preacher of sorts.”  She was in emotional and spiritual pain!

When someone has had a terrible auto accident, lying in the middle of the road, blood everywhere, a doctor would not give a classroom  lecture on trauma.  Sorry Charlie.  It’s not the right time or place. Furthermore, the pain would be too excruciating.  I’m trying to figure out why people hurt.

#1 –  The place to start is before the injury & pain; before the heartache, before the discouragement or disappointment, before the treason or lies, before the uncertainty or questions.  The relationship we have with Christ Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit,  a voracious hunger for his Word, the Bible , our spiritual road map is our  protection and peace.

He said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me.” (John 10:14)

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 (kjv))

“But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Romans 5:8-9 (kjv)

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7 (kjv)

#2 -The Rorschach test was designed to help the psychologist delve deep into our thinking finally diagnosing our mental state.  Other than our own destructive behavior, trying to diagnose how or why human beings suffer – usually blaming God – only creates more suffering through hate, anger and despondency.  When suffering through our heartaches, should we blame God or perhaps go to a street-side mind reader?  Trust me on this my friend, things will happen in our life for which there is no answer – none.  You can read books about why bad things happen to good people and it may bring a little comfort, somewhat like rubbing Lidocaine on a sore tooth, but when God works with us through our hurt, he goes to the heart of the matter.  Count on it, he does not cause human suffering, but in many cases he will pick up the pieces left along the way.  He welcomes us as we fall helplessly into his bosom.  Even Jesus who was God in the flesh had terrible feelings of hopelessness.  In his feelings of unrequited soul-hurt he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

#3 –  Over and over throughout the Bible the Lord challenges us by saying, “Do not be afraid.”  When the disciples were about to drown, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.”  When a celestial being appeared to the shepherds, it scared the living daylights out of them.  Think of it,  thousands of angels spread across the sky, singing.  I would be scared, too.  An angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.”  In the Book of Revelation 2:10, the indication is that Satan causes suffering.  It says,  “DO NOT BE AFRAID of what you are about to suffer.  I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer for 10 days.  But be faithful, even if you have to die, and I will give you the crown of life.”

#4 – How about those three hanging on crosses?  Two of them were criminals.  The One on the center cross was God who took upon himself flesh and bone.  In his pain and suffering, one of the thieves railed at Jesus, mockingly said, “So, some people have said you are the Messiah! If you can’t save yourself, how are you going to save us?” I can’t find where Jesus shouted back condemnation to the bitter thief.  “But the other criminal protested, ‘Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’  And Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
(Luke 23:39-43)

#5 – Sometimes the pain we feel is because we don’t know what to do. It’s as though there is no answer.  Hopeless. “What do I do now? Is there no one to help me?”
It’s interesting that Paul and Silas “were PRAYING and SINGING HYMNS to God [in jail], and … suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!”
(Acts of the Apostles 16:25-26)

#6 – Rather than dealing with the “Why” of suffering, the key is to deal with the solution. The solution is to PRAISE HIM!  Praising shows trust!

#7 – 🎼🎶
“Praise Him! praise Him!
Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Sing, O earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory,
strength and honor give to His holy name!
Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children;
in His arms He carries them all day long:
“Praise Him! praise Him! tell of His excellent greatness!
Praise Him! praise Him! ever in joyful song!”
(Fanny Crosby)